Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Poisoned Pen Press: That Night in the Library by Eva Jurczyk

From My Shelf

Further Reading: Exploring the Great Outdoors

"Why do we, as animals, uproot ourselves and go somewhere else? Why do we venture into places where we were not born and do not belong? Why do we press forward into the unknown?"

Robert Moor asks these large, philosophical questions in the prologue to On Trails (Simon & Schuster), an exploration of the world as understood by its trails. The questions themselves remain largely unanswered, but Moor's exploration proves the extent to which animals do uproot and go somewhere else, regardless of the reason. As Moor moves from microscopic fossil pathways to the modern hiking paths of today (touching on ant trails and game trails and desire trails and elephant trails and footpaths and roads and internet wires in between), On Trails brings readers a view of the world through the lens of the tracks that criss-cross its surface.

Dan White brings a slightly more focused--and more irreverent--view of the outdoor world to readers in Under the Stars: How America fell in Love with Camping  (Holt). His travels from the Sierras to the Adirondacks to the Everglades cross the camping highlights of the United States as he, too, attempts to understand why we, as animals, venture into the great outdoors.

Charles Foster brings the same sense of curiosity about the natural world to his writing as Moor and White, though he does so a touch more literally. In Being a Beast (Metropolitan), he tries to live as the animals he studies: a badger, an otter, a fox, a deer and a swift, to understand better how animals experience the world.

On their own, each of these three books offers a fascinating, curious and amusing account of the natural world and our interactions with it; combined, they're sure to push even the most indoor-loving reader to venture into the great outdoors. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

Book Candy

T-Shirts for Booklovers

Fashionable reads: Bustle featured "9 literary-inspired T-shirts that only book-lovers will understand."


Pop quiz: "Twenty years of Game of Thrones: How well do you know the book?" The Guardian issued a challenge, asking, "Can you slay this quiz? Warning: watching the TV show may not help you."


"The covers were painted by Hodges Soileau--and one featured Kirsten Dunst." Mental Floss revealed "15 fun facts about The Baby-sitters Club."


"Thousands of books were laid end-to-end through the center of Wimborne in a bid to set a world record," BBC News reported. The attempt to create the longest-ever line of books was launched to benefit the Dorset town's library and museum.


AAA State of Play offered "16 inspirational quotes from children's literature."


"Ananym," for example. NANYM. Mental Floss looked up "25 words for other words."

I Will Send Rain

by Rae Meadows

Rae Meadows's (Mercy Train) new historical novel sets timeless domestic issues against the hard times of the Dust Bowl. Themes of marital drift, infidelity, financial insecurity and the limiting of women's options make the past feel modern and create an easy kinship between the reader and Meadows's pitch-perfect characters.

The Bell family of Mulehead, Okla., wants what every Oklahoma farm family in 1934 wants: rain. Besieged by dust storms when "[t]he world had gone dark and haywire," steadfast, God-fearing farmer Samuel Bell worries that "Our land is on the wind." His wife, Annie, stares out at "Land as flat as a razor in every direction, a burned-out watery mirage," as they fret silently over how to provide for their children in the vicious drought of the Dust Bowl. The fault line in their marriage, already opened by the death of their second baby several years ago, yawns wider as both of them worry over the farm but keep their own counsel instead of turning to each other. Samuel wonders if Annie even needs him anymore, since "[i]t startled him sometimes how much she had become part of the land, shaped and scarred and bound by it," and if she regrets choosing a life with him over the seminary student her parents wanted her to marry back in Kansas. Annie is not as lost to him as he fears--"Today, though, standing next to him when she'd seen the clouds and, thinking they held rain, felt the tightness in her jaw ease, she had imagined again a carpet of wildflowers, trumpet vines, and pale green buffalo grass all around them, and she'd felt an old tenderness swelling. You and me and this family, she had wanted to say. She had offered her silent hand instead."

However, when the rain refuses to fall, she says nothing. When handsome Jack Lily, a Chicago native serving as town mayor, notices her, Annie feels "a tension between them both awful and delicious." The "barb of contempt" she feels toward Samuel lets her stray too easily into an emotional and physical affair. Samuel seeks refuge in religion, blind to his wife's transgressions as he takes on the task of building a boat, convinced his dreams of a mighty flood come from God.

The Bell children initially find the drought less affecting than their parents. Buoyed by the sense of invincibility inherent in the young, 15-year-old Birdie finds drama everywhere and falls head over heels for another farmer's son. Her younger brother, Fred, scans the horizon for storm clouds, not out of fear for the future, but because "Rain would mean wheat would mean money would mean a bicycle." Reality has no mercy for children, however. As neighbors pull up stakes and flee to California, Birdie learns the suitor she thought would take her away from the farm has left without her. Fred's asthma, thought at the time to be a psychosomatic disease, leaves him vulnerable to the dry and gritty conditions that bring on dust pneumonia.

Meadows includes all the honest folk, drifters and con-men needed for mid-'30s authenticity, together with plenty of historical detail, even "the overrun of rabbits, the plague-like nature of it." An early interlude in which a smooth talker from Amarillo proposes dynamiting the sky to bring on a storm both amuses the reader and brings home the desperation of people willing to try anything, believe anything, to salvage their lives. Yet, while the Bells scrape by on next to nothing, like their neighbors, Meadows concerns herself less with their meager physical resources and more with the struggles of their inner lives. The story draws its strength from complicated, hard-edged Annie, who rejected her mother's narrow path as a preacher's wife but has too much experience of the world to countenance her daughter's headstrong determination to wrestle life into the shape she desires. Her arguments with Birdie are the eternal miscommunication between parent and adolescent, the mother's attempts to provide a warning about the nature of life misconstrued by the teen as a bid for authoritarian control. To Birdie, the world seems full of possibilities, her mother a jailer bent on holding her back. To Annie, the need to convince Birdie to safeguard against an indiscretion that could limit her choices goes along with her own remembrance of struggling against her mother's attempts to shoehorn her into a preordained life. The parallel she draws between her own marital unhappiness and infidelity and her counsel to Birdie is not one of hypocrisy, but of cause and effect--if Birdie makes mistakes, the limited scope of a woman's freedom could someday place her in Annie's situation, or worse. Meadows's clear but subtle distinctions in how Annie approaches her decisions gives the reader ample room to empathize with her choices, even when they might hurt her family.

In the midst of exploring women's issues and how much damage a marriage can take before it buckles, Meadows always takes time to indulge in prose more lush than one might expect given the setting, such as when Annie "remembered dew sliding down blades of buffalo grass and collecting in honeysuckle flowers and slippery under bare feet before dawn. Mornings like a juicy pear." Alternately delicate and elegiac, glowing and ferocious, this slow dance through the devastation of history leaves readers with a glimpse of the cost to those who stayed to brave the hard times. --Jaclyn Fulwood

Holt, $26, hardcover, 272p., 9781627794268

Rae Meadows: "Heels-in-the-Dirt Hope"

photo: Christina Paige

Rae Meadows is the author of Calling Out, which received the 2006 Utah Book Award for fiction; No One Tells Everything, a Poets & Writers Notable Novel; and the widely praised novel Mercy Train. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Brooklyn, N.Y.

How did you fall in love with your topic?

I'm a little embarrassed to admit this, but I had never been to Oklahoma before writing this book. What I knew of the Dust Bowl was left over from history class--some vague notion of a drought, and migrant workers in California. And then I happened across a photo of what a dust storm actually looked like and I was transfixed.

What inspired the novel was a photograph taken by Dorothea Lange in 1936 of a woman, a Dust Bowl refugee from Oklahoma, nursing her son in a makeshift camp on the side of a California highway. The defiance, anger and determination in her face made me want to know what she had left and why. The Oklahoma Panhandle during this period became for me almost a mythic place in my imagination. I loved the remoteness of the region, the starkness, so I chose it for the home of the Bell family.

What did you do to research your setting?

I find research to be the most fun part of the novel process. I read anything I could about the Dust Bowl and immersed myself in the Farm Securities Administration photography archives at the Library of Congress. But it was my trip to Boise City, Okla., the town on which I loosely based Mulehead, which gave me a truer sense of place. Boise City is in Cimarron County, at the westernmost edge of the state, and still does not have a stoplight. People pick up their mail at the small post office, and the sheriff knew I was in town because he noticed a car he didn't recognize. There is a Heritage Museum with all things Dust Bowl, which is an incredible jewel of artifacts. The most surprising thing to me was how beautiful the Panhandle was. I was used to black-and-white photos of devastation, and here was this rich landscape, green buffalo grass to the horizon, under the widest sky of churning clouds against the blue. The feeling of vastness was stunning.

Author Darin Strauss compared you to John Steinbeck in an extremely positive manner.

I am beyond flattered by Darin's comparison. Steinbeck and I in the same sentence? I'm just here in my sweatpants, slogging it out at the computer while the kids are at school.

It's funny because I first thought the book would be about Birdie starting where this novel ends, but it was hard to imagine retreading the same territory as Grapes of Wrath. Not that a migrant story was somehow off limits, but it would have been daunting. I purposefully did not reread Steinbeck's book, or watch the John Ford movie again, so as not to be influenced or intimidated while writing.

You explore topics of infidelity and women's freedom in the book. Did you set out to work through these themes or did they grow organically from the story?

One of the very first scenes I wrote was when Annie waves to the man from Amarillo and imagines being with him. From the beginning I envisioned Annie, after the dust arrives and the family is knocked off kilter, being tempted by the attentions of Jack Lily. But her more nuanced questioning of what she has always accepted grew from the story and the backstory of her childhood. Like most women of her time and background, Annie has so few choices. She stands up to her parents in choosing to marry Samuel, but her role as dutiful farm wife and mother is preordained. It isn't until she is 37 that she contemplates the freedom of a different kind of life. Annie comes more fully into herself even as in so doing she threatens to unravel her family.

If you'd had an Oklahoma farm during the Dust Bowl, do you think you would have stayed, or left it in hopes of something better?

At the onset of this project I would have said I would have left the dust and misery. But in researching and writing, I changed my view. I grew to understand the intense relationship people had with their land and the region, and their heels-in-the-dirt hope that things would get better. During my visit to Boise City, I met a 92-year-old man whose family had stayed through the Dust Bowl. He said with a laugh that they would have left if they had any money. They were poor but so was everyone else--they had a garden, some chickens and a cow, and that sustained them through those long years. Other than when he fought in WWII, he had happily spent his whole life in the Panhandle. I admire that spirit.

Religion played an enormous role in Annie's background and in the lives of the Bell family and their community. Do you think faith still shapes communities today?

I am not a religious person but I am very much interested in the concept of faith. In Mulehead, faith gives meaning and structure to people in this harsh place where life is difficult, but in the case of Samuel, it leads him to believe in the impossible in a slightly unhinged way. Annie wrestles with hypocrisy in what she has been taught and has to come to terms with what she believes about God.

I think faith still shapes some communities in this country, but there is less prevalence then there once was, and I suppose it tends to be regional. Here in Brooklyn, for instance, there are plenty of churches, mosques, synagogues and temples, but faith doesn't drive the larger issues of the city.

But in Boise City, Okla., a town of fewer than 1,200, there are nine churches, and from the discussions I had with people, faith was integral to the community, to their identity. And in Salt Lake City, where I lived for a few years, the LDS church certainly influences all facets of life and culture.

What should we expect to see from you next?

I guess I wasn't quite ready to say goodbye to the Panhandle. I'm working on something set in a town modeled on present-day Boise City, following a few interconnected characters, including a lonely misfit teenage girl who gets drawn into radicalism online. I don't know yet if Birdie, as an old woman, makes an appearance, but she might. --Jaclyn Fulwood

Shelf vetted, publisher supported.

Book Review


The City Baker's Guide to Country Living

by Louise Miller

Boston pastry chef Olivia Rawlings relishes her role as creator of elegant desserts for a chic Back Bay supper club. But when a flambé gone wrong sets the entire place on fire, Livvy packs up her dog, Salty, and flees to the tiny town of Guthrie, Vt. Her best friend, Hannah, helps her find a new job: baking at the Sugar Maple Inn, run by Margaret, a stern widow. Margaret is determined to reclaim her blue-ribbon status in the annual pie-baking contest at the local county fair, and Livvy settles in to help her, making desserts for the inn and testing countless pie variations. Living with Salty in the inn's sugarhouse, she gradually makes friends with a few of the locals, some of whom share her love of banjo music. In her debut novel, The City Baker's Guide to Country Living, Louise Miller brings both the pastry chef and her creations to life.

In the hands of a less accomplished writer, Livvy's story might read as cliché: woman fleeing troubled city life finds hope and meaning in a small town. But Miller's plot contains a few unexpected twists, and her characters, even the supporting ones, are refreshingly complicated and gloriously flawed. She delights in the sensory details of her story--melancholy banjo chords, lipstick-red autumn leaves--while exploring the vagaries of community: the ways we wound and heal each other. Warmhearted and hopeful, with a dash of melancholy and more than a pinch of humor, The City Baker's Guide to Country Living is a treat. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: This big-hearted debut novel follows a pastry chef who flees Boston for a new life in small-town Vermont.

Pamela Dorman Books, $26, hardcover, 352p., 9781101981207

To the Bright Edge of the World

by Eowyn Ivey

Alaskan author Eowyn Ivey reintroduces the fictional Wolverine River Valley of her debut, The Snow Child, in To the Bright Edge of the World. Instead of isolated homesteaders of the 1920s, this novel follows the adventure of an 1885 expedition into Alaskan Territory. What the novels share are vivid depictions of the natural elements' harsh brutality and a mystical, folkloric component.

The story of the expedition is framed by modern-day correspondence between Montanan Walter Forrester and the curator of the historical museum in Alpine, Alaska. Forrester is urging the museum to review the memorabilia from his great-uncle Colonel Allen Forrester's remarkable trek through what is now Alpine. As they delve into the records of the colonel and his wife, Sophie, they piece together a story of horrific physical trials, vast and cold beauty, and the changes brought by the opening of the territory.

Newly pregnant Sophie, who traveled from Boston to Vancouver Barracks in Washington Territory with her husband, awaited his return. Irritated by her confinement, she rejected social expectations and immersed herself in the study of photography. While Sophie experienced her own challenges, her chapters are welcome departures from the harsh expedition's narrative.

Ivey populates her novel with rich supporting characters, including an enigmatic Indian woman, a mysterious raven and the colonel's individualistic team members. A story of love and commitment, The Bright Edge of the World is spellbinding Pacific Northwest historic fiction. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, manager, Book Passage, San Francisco

Discover: An 1885 expedition to the Alaskan Territory is a riveting story of adventure, mystery and love.

Little, Brown, $26, hardcover, 432p., 9780316242851

A Wife of Noble Character

by Yvonne Georgina Puig

In Yvonne Georgina Puig's A Wife of Noble Character, Vivienne Cally comes from Houston, Tex., high society, but her value is fading: 30 years old, unmarried and living with a coldly distant aunt, she possesses no wealth to speak of. Preston Duffin is an architecture graduate student from a different but adjacent class of people; the two have known each other all their lives. Despite her traditional upbringing, Vivienne is refreshingly spirited and skeptical, and Preston's challenges to the life she knows intrigue her. He is attracted in turn not only to her beauty, but also to her similarly questioning attitude. Because the novel's perspective shifts between the two, readers know what neither Vivienne nor Preston does as they are mutually drawn together, mystified and intimidated.

Plot progression would be accelerated if the characters would only talk to one another, but neither of them have the ability to speak honestly. Meanwhile, Vivienne's society affairs--bridal and baby showers, lunches, mani-pedis--and her increasing struggle to maintain the façade of effortless wealth provide both heartrending pathos and entertainment, as the scene shifts from Houston to Paris, where Vivienne attempts a professional career as an art consultant, and back. Lavish details evoke the fashion and humidity of an expertly rendered setting, and Puig's characters can be both silly and profoundly recognizable. With allusions to Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth, and sensitive criticisms and clever details, A Wife of Noble Character is both fun and intelligent, much like its heroine. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: Set in contemporary Houston, Tex., this fresh riff on The House of Mirth addresses the same questions of class and feminism, although in its own way.

Holt, $27, hardcover, 320p., 9781627795555


by Tim Murphy

Tim Murphy's massive and fearless debut novel has a daunting task: covering the AIDS pandemic from the early 1980s into the year 2021 without becoming pedantic. Christodora, however, flourishes as a sweeping and moving novel filled with vivid and complex characters who engender empathy and affection.

Set in the Christodora, a towering apartment building in Manhattan's East Village, Murphy's epic family saga acts as a microcosm of the massive changes in New York City over four decades. Through the tenants' lives, Murphy shows how the East Village evolved from a desolate area filled with junkies and crime to an affordable place for brave bohemian artists who were then pushed out by moneyed hipsters and corporate greed.

While the action jumps around in time, the compelling cast keeps the reader anchored to their individual stories involving AIDS activism, addiction, family secrets and mental health issues. Memorable core characters include Mateo, the drug-addicted adopted son of two wealthy East Village artists, Jared and Milly Traum; Hector, a longtime gay activist who starts using meth as a coping device after the death of his partner; and HIV-positive and pregnant Issy. Murphy, who reported on HIV/AIDS issues for more than two decades in POZ, Out and the Advocate, knows the landscape of that ongoing pandemic, but never allows the human stories to get bogged down by the minutiae of medical science and politics. Christodora is an epic told with compassion, surprising humor and a strong sense of history and pacing. --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant

Discover: Tim Murphy's debut novel is a sweeping and witty saga of East Village residents during the AIDS pandemic.

Grove Press, $26, hardcover, 496p., 9780802125286

Night of the Animals

by Bill Broun

In this ambitious debut, Night of the Animals, Bill Broun demonstrates that he is more skilled than many seasoned novelists. Britain in 2052 is bleak, ruled by King Harry IX and split into two classes: New Aristocrats and Indigents. The Red Watch keeps have-nots in line with nasty neuralpikes, and healthcare is meted out according to class. Comet-worshipping suicide cults are on the rise, the most notorious of which wants to destroy the world's remaining animals.

The novel's hero is obese, 90-year-old Indigent Cuthbert Handley. Severely delusional and hopelessly addicted to the hallucinogenic booze Flōt, Cuthbert has long heard animals speaking to him. He also believes that his long-lost brother is alive and is the Christ of Otters, and that in order to find him, Cuthbert must free the animals from the London Zoo.

This is a rare pre-apocalyptic novel. One of its themes--that doom is abstract, distant and vague until it appears at one's doorstep--gives Night of the Animals heartbreaking urgency. Broun is a master of language, inventing a hybrid future dialect. Footnoted definitions are sometimes a distraction, as meanings can be gleaned from context, but this is a small quibble. He handles mental illness and addiction with sensitivity and humor, creating in Cuthbert a Quixote for the postmodern era. Night of the Animals is a compelling read, filled with pathos and among the best of today's literary science fiction. --Zak Nelson, writer and bookseller

Discover: This powerful debut--dark, satiric and heartbreaking, with a memorable anti-hero--will delight fans of Atwood, Bradbury and Gaiman.

Ecco, $26.99, hardcover, 560p., 9780062400796

Mystery & Thriller

I Am Providence

by Nick Mamatas

Nick Mamatas (The Last Weekend) is funny and macabre, and flirts with tentacled elements of the supernatural in his sixth novel, I Am Providence. Visiting historic Providence, R.I., for the first time to attend a conference on H.P. Lovecraft, horror writer Colleen Danzig has more than a little bit of trouble making friends with her peers. The devoted Lovecraftians are an insular bunch with friendships and grudges that span decades.

This tempest in a teapot makes investigating the grisly murder of Colleen's roommate for the weekend, the novelist Panossian, all the more difficult, especially since everyone seemed to have beef with him, and no one seems to care that his face was removed or that the motive seems to be tied to a book of stories bound in human skin.

The police suspect Colleen, and so it's up to her to find the real killer. If only the magically cognizant murder victim could remember just who did it. Or do anything, really, except lie on the slab in the morgue narrating.

Rich with irreverence about the notoriously anti-Semitic Lovecraft and the pulpy horror genre he spawned, I Am Providence is as much a send-up of solipsistic literary zeal as it is an offbeat murder mystery. Even readers who don't know their Elder Gods from their Alchemists are sure to find enjoyment in Mamatas's wacky collection of characters, or his black-humored digs at literature's perennial racism and misogyny problems.

Not your average whodunit, I Am Providence dances over genre lines, while giving a firm, playful tug on Cthulhu's mouth of many tentacles. --Dave Wheeler, associate editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: When a novelist is murdered at a writer's conference, it's up to a first-time attendee to sleuth out the killer amid a zany clan of Lovecraft devotees.

Night Shade Books, $15.99, paperback, 256p., 9781597808354

I Shot the Buddha

by Colin Cotterill

Colin Cotterill spins another quirky, entertaining mystery in his 11th Dr. Siri novel, I Shot the Buddha. Since the doctor retired as the national coroner of Laos, his days have been filled with local gossip, seminars put on by the ruling Communist Party and managing his houseful of oddball monks, mendicants and homeless people. When Noo, a Buddhist monk who has been sleeping on Siri's back porch, disappears, he leaves Siri a cryptic note urging the doctor to help a fellow monk escape across the border into Thailand. Siri and his wife, Daeng, and their group of friends are drawn into a mystery involving the local secret police, a mechanic claiming to be the Buddha reincarnated and more than a few troublesome spirits from the afterlife.

Although Cotterill plunges straight into 1970s Laos with little context, readers can quickly pick up on its salient features: government inefficiency, low-level conflict between Buddhism and Communism, lingering traces of French colonial rule. Cotterill pokes fun at all of the above, as when Siri's friend Civilai drives an ancient Renault "at the pace of a government committee meeting" or is "held prisoner by his country's non-communication system." Siri is also accustomed to regular, brief visitations from supernatural beings, which begin as an irritation and eventually become a key plot point. While Siri and Daeng's paranormal adventures require a serious suspension of disbelief, Cotterill's twisty mystery plot will entertain readers while his cast of eccentric characters charms. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: Colin Cotterill's 11th Dr. Siri Paiboun mystery features a twisty plot involving Buddhist monks and troublesome spirits.

Soho Crime, $26.95, hardcover, 352p., 9781616957223

Mississippi Noir

by Tom Franklin, editor

Akashic Books' noir series travels to Mississippi, with Tom Franklin editing this collection of short stories by both established and newly published authors. Mississippi Noir includes 16 tales, symmetrically organized in four sections of four: "Conquest & Revenge," "Wayward Youth," "Bloodlines" and "Skipping Town." The thematic groupings are loose, and the contents work equally well in any order, picked up and put down as the reader chooses.

These chilling stories vary in length, from 20-some pages down to just a few, and though they cover a range of subjects and settings in time, they consistently embody the ideal of noir writing with a strong sense of place. Bullets, blood, abuse and longing appear frequently, with some sex scenes thrown in as well. Ace Atkins writes of desperate teens running out of options; Megan Abbott, in a scintillating contribution, views from both sides a romance gone tragically wrong; Chris Offutt's understated story stars a waitress drifting from town to town; and Dominiqua Dickey's first published story involves an interracial romance in 1936. Within all of the pieces, the authors pay special attention to local details: natural beauty, economic depression, college culture, the longing to escape a small town or the yearning for a wider world.

These stories are dark by definition, and marked by unhappiness: as one narrator sighs, "I wanted sleep to pass without actually having to sleep. I wanted the future." But an appreciation for the surroundings is always evident; these pages drip with Mississippi humidity. Fans of classic noir will be pleased and rooted in this redolent setting. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: Collected noir stories firmly grounded in Mississippi atmosphere offer a concise view of the genre's possibilities.

Akashic, $15.95, paperback, 288p., 9781617752285

Social Science

The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race

by Jesmyn Ward, editor

Responding to the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland and so many others, the subsequent Black Lives Matter movement and a feeling that not much has changed, Jesmyn Ward (Salvage the Bones; Men We Reaped) felt moved to build a collection of words to counter the pain and injustice she saw. Essays and poems, many of them solicited by Ward, make up The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race. Its title, of course, answers James Baldwin's 1963 The Fire Next Time, which addressed the same questions of being black in the United States.

Led by Ward's powerful introduction, contributions from Natasha Trethewey, Isabel Wilkerson, Edwidge Danticat and more consider past, present and future--Legacy, Reckoning and Jubilee. Honorée Jeffers writes in defense of Phillis Wheatley's husband, a man apparently wrongfully denigrated, and honors Wheatley's legacy while questioning the way it's been written by others. Kevin Young muses on Rachel Dolezal's interpretation of race. Garnette Cadogan writes movingly of what it looks like to walk through U.S. cities as a black man. And Ward offers an essay on her own ethnic heritage.

These powerful words from a range of sources vary in specific subject matter, but all make the same vital demands: for black citizens to have true equality. The entries in the collection are a little uneven, but each is stirring in its way, and the finest among them offer poetry as well as truth. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: Poems and essays by a range of writers address race in the United States.

Scribner, $25, hardcover, 240p., 9781501126345

Down, Out, and Under Arrest: Policing and Everyday Life in Skid Row

by Forrest Stuart

The disordered state of zero-tolerance urban policing is the subject of Down, Out, and Under Arrest, the first book by University of Chicago sociologist Forrest Stuart. He is mixed race (black and Mexican) and grew up in impoverished San Bernardino, Calif. He spent five years doing a field study in the Skid Row neighborhood of Los Angeles, known as the homeless capital of the United States. Its residents are mostly black, unemployed, undereducated, disabled and addicted, and it has more police officers per capita than any other LAPD division.

In the 1990s, Los Angeles helped build three "mega-shelters" in Skid Row. These refuges emphasized rehabilitation over providing temporary food and shelter, and collaborated with the police to get people into their facilities. This altered how police officers viewed their work, which "led to a perverse development: the officers most committed to rehabilitation and reintegration... often acted the most punitively toward residents...." Stuart found that this approach burdens the poor with steep fines and jail time for minor infractions.

He recommends that the U.S. undo policies that treat the poor as undeserving, incompetent and immoral. Therapeutic policing should be replaced by programs that provide basic housing and voluntary access to services, and reduce the harms of self-destructive behaviors rather than trying to eliminate them--approaches that have been proven to succeed. This is a serious academic book, but it is also intimate and multifaceted, adding new insights and much-needed complexity to the current debates on policing in the poorest urban areas of the U.S. --Sara Catterall

Discover: A vivid and insightful five-year study of L.A.'s Skid Row contradicts much of the conventional wisdom about policing and the urban poor.

University of Chicago Press, $27.50, hardcover, 352p., 9780226370811

Children's & Young Adult

The Girl Who Drank the Moon

by Kelly Barnhill

Thirteen-year-old Luna wasn't always magic. She was accidentally "enmagicked" by Xan, the goodhearted witch who rescued her when she was abandoned as a baby in the annual "Day of Sacrifice," a tragic practice of the Protectorate, or the City of Sorrows, a dismal, foggy place inhabited by "a subdued people, a compliant people, who lived their lives in a saddened haze."

Even before she "drank the moon" and its powers, Luna, with her black hair, black eyes and "calm, probing, unsettling gaze," was different from other babies. Rather than finding new parents for the child, Xan decides to raise Luna herself in the forest home she shares with a bardic swamp monster, Glerk, and Fyrian, the endearingly cheerful, pocket-sized "Simply Enormous Dragon." Luna grows up to be "a tangle of mischief and motion and curiosity," and, as a teenager, her untamed magic is getting dangerous. Worse still, a brave but misguided young man from the City of Sorrows, seeking to abolish the tradition of baby sacrifice, is coming to kill the Witch, and Luna's mother, mad from grief and imprisoned in a tower, is plotting her way to the forest, too.

The Girl Who Drank the Moon takes a probing look at social complexity and the high cost of secrets and lies, weaving multiple perspectives, past and present, into one cleverly unfolding fairy tale. Kelly Barnhill (The Witch's Boy; Iron Hearted Violet) crafts wonderfully imperfect characters with poetic prose, warmth and wit. The resiliency of the heroes may be partly because of magic, but also because of critical thinking, empathy, deep love and the strength of family in all its unconventional manifestations. Thoughtful and utterly spellbinding. --Kristianne Huntsberger, writer, storyteller and partnership marketing manager at Shelf Awareness

Discover: In Kelly Barnhill's fairy tale full of marvelous surprises, Luna comes of age, and all the assumptions of how things have always been are turned on their head.

Algonquin, $16.95, hardcover, 400p., ages 10-14, 9781616205676

City Atlas: Travel the World with 30 City Maps

by Georgia Cherry, illus. by Martin Haake

Istanbul, Berlin, San Francisco, Amsterdam, Mumbai, Budapest, Hong Kong and Cape Town are just a smattering of the 30 world cities represented in the playful, kid-friendly and, unless you are made of stone, travel-inspiring City Atlas, first published in the U.K.

Readers are invited to lose themselves in these fascinating, history-rich cities, gorgeously showcased in abstracted double-page maps teeming with whimsical cut-paper-collage-style illustrations of people, animals, buildings, food, art, traditional garments, vehicles, historic sites and tourist attractions. Each intriguing icon is labeled with a very short caption identifying local must-dos: in Lisbon, "Go crazy for Portuguese CUSTARD TARTS"; in Amsterdam "See Anne Frank's secret annex during World War II at the ANNE FRANK HUIS"; or, in Chicago, "Go on a nighttime aquatic adventure at the SHEDD AQUARIUM." The search-and-find challenge (find five painted blue skulls in Mexico City, five lucky dragons in Hong Kong, five koala bears in Sydney or five Russian dolls in Moscow) is bound to have young explorers scouring every inch of the dynamic and colorful pages. The mother country of each city is represented by a picture of the national flag, its population and primary language, and a flag-waving person is always somewhere to be found saying "hello" in one of that city's spoken languages.

Readers will want to drop the book and jump on a plane to see Frank Gehry's giant goldfish sculpture in Barcelona, play telephone at St. Paul's Whispering Gallery in London or explore the star-shaped Kastellet sea fortress in Copenhagen. Go. Go! --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: This fanciful atlas of 30 world cities will have readers young and old daydreaming of glorious travel adventures.

Wide Eyed Editions, $27.99, hardcover, 64p., ages 7-11, 9781847807014

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